Top 3 Ways to Ease Back Into Your Postpartum Workout
Disclaimer: All workouts and fitness activities should be approved by your doctor.
Staring at my postpartum body naked in the mirror for the first time was a little scary. My boobs are all veiny and engorged. My face felt puffy from the three bags of fluid they pushed into me at the hospital. My belly was squishy in a way I’d never experienced before, not even when I came home from Oxford after a summer of potatoes and British beer and reading. I wasn’t sure whose body this was, but it didn’t look like the one I’d had about 40 weeks ago. I was proud of what my body had accomplished: hello! I grew another human being from TWO CELLS! That’s fucking awesome. But that didn’t take away the dread I felt looking in the mirror. What had I done?
My husband talked sense into me: I’d radically changed my body to grow our daughter and it was going to take time to recover. I (kind of) chilled out and waited for my doctor to release me to exercise. I wanted to get moving and rebuild the strength I’d lost while pregnant, and these are the (basic, free, quick) things I started with when the doctor said it was okay to exercise.
1) Walk. Walking is literally the best way to get your body active and moving and out-and-about again. Whether you’re a baby-wearing mama or all about the stroller or somewhere in-between, grab that baby and get outside! Your first walks are going to feel awkward and be short, so take it slow, go easy, and enjoy being outdoors with your bub. Increase your walk time, distance, and location as you feel your body recovering from the effort of giving birth. Plus, Harvard says that being outdoors is good for your mental health!
2) Yoga. A quick google search will show you a slew of free postnatal youtube yoga videos and poses you can do to refresh your body and work out the kinks that nighttime feeding will put into your neck. These classes and programs take into account the relaxin hormone still coursing through your body (did you know relaxin can hang around for months after you stop breastfeeding?) and the sleep deprivation that new parents feel. I know I wouldn’t have had time for a full yoga class during those first few weeks with the baby, but 10 minutes to do a quick flow of postures designed to relax my brain and release my spine was refreshing.
3) Bodyweight work. Squats, lunges, ankle raises, wall push-ups, pelvic tilts, wall sits...those are all great ways to start working your muscles again and can be done at home, for free, and for short periods of time. Start with very few reps and build slowly. If your baby likes to be “danced” like mine does, I sink myself into a slightly lower and engage in a little squat action while I dance her around. Mama works her legs and butt and baby is soothed at the same time! Be careful to protect your core by making sure your transverse abdominis muscle (aka one of those pelvic floor muscles pregnancy really fucks up) is appropriately engaged. This video is pretty helpful to learn how to do that.
The best advice my doctor gave me was to listen to my body. I’ve skipped workouts to nap or because my boobs were engorged or just because I wasn’t feeling it. I’ve cut workouts short when things felt off. I’ve increased workouts on days I’ve felt great. I’m four months postpartum now and really back into the swing of things, but being kind to my body and slowly building back with the basics I’ve outlined above really helped me feel like “myself” again in my new body.
What are you doing to help your brain and body feel good postpartum?